how high can rattlesnakes climb?
Questions About Snakes

Can Rattlesnakes Climb Trees and Walls?

Rattlesnakes are scary enough as it is. The idea that they could easily get into your home is even more worrying. But, can rattlesnakes climb trees and walls? How high can rattlesnakes climb?

Some species of rattlesnake are practically arboreal, meaning that they spend time in trees, both hunting and hiding. They can climb 48 feet or more. However, rattlesnakes are too large and lack the body shape to climb walls.

That doesn’t mean that they can’t make their way into your house, though. They could get in through an open door or window, and make their way anywhere they’d like around your house.

How High Can Rattlesnakes Climb?

There are 32 different species of rattlesnake, with at least 80 more subspecies. Each rattlesnake species in its various habitats behaves differently.

The Mojave rattlesnake, for example, doesn’t have much need to climb trees. That’s because it is barren and has no trees, just lots of rocky areas and shrubs. So, they might make great mountaineers or hikers but would have no idea how to climb a tree.

On the other hand, there’s a rattlesnake native to the eastern United States called the timber rattlesnake. These have been found across the eastern seaboard and further inland too, including in thickly forested areas of Iowa.

According to a paper published by the Southern Research Station, a division of the U.S. Forest Service, these snakes have been observed climbing trees and reaching heights of up to 48-49 feet.

This is backed by further research in the journal Toxicon. They found that squirrels that lived in the same areas as timber rattlesnakes had developed a slight immunity to their venom since they are a source of prey So, these rattlesnakes might be climbing trees to hunt as well as hide.

What Is an Arboreal Snake?

Arboreal snakes are snakes that live, hunt, and hide in trees. Rattlesnakes aren’t generally considered an arboreal species. Researchers at the Southern Research Station were surprised by how high they found timber rattlesnakes climbing.

Arboreal snakes have special adaptations to make them better suited to climbing. For starters, they’re often green, so that they can camouflage themselves against the foliage around them.

The emerald tree boa is bright green, for example, as is the green tree python and vine snake. You can tell from their coloration that rattlesnakes are better suited to crawling on the ground.

Why Do Snakes Climb?

Snakes’ climbing behavior is easily explained. It gives them an advantage, which is why any animal does anything. First, they might climb to get away from predators. All snake species have predators, including:

  • Other snakes
  • Large birds like hawks and eagles
  • Weasels
  • Foxes

These snakes will find it hard to access a snake that’s high up in a tree. They’ll also find it much harder to spot a bright green snake among bright green foliage, in a non-open area.

The branches of trees, therefore, offer snakes a place to sit and relax without having to be paranoid about a predator coming around the corner. This is important because snakes need to be inactive to sleep and to digest.

rock climbing rattlesnakes

Trees also offer plenty of opportunities to hunt. In the branches of a tree, you can find plenty of squirrels and small mammals. There are also birds and their eggs to eat.

If snakes could eat leaves, they’d probably all live in trees because it seems like the perfect habitat. Arboreal snakes will spend most of their time in trees but are also happy on the ground occasionally. And most snakes can climb a tree, although many don’t choose to do so.

You’ll typically find that rattlesnakes don’t travel far from their den.

Do Rattlesnakes Climb Walls?

So, perhaps the more important question is whether rattlesnakes can climb walls and make their way into your property. This is a big problem for homeowners in areas where there are lots of snakes, although it’s rare for the snake in question to be a rattlesnake.

However, there was a case of a rattlesnake being stuck in somebody’s attic in Leona Valley, California in 1994. The man was checking in his attic on some mouse traps when the snake lunged at him. The snake had presumably found its way into the house to prey on the mice in the attic.

Can a Rattlesnake Climb Up a Wall?

Rattlesnakes can’t climb walls because they’re too big. When a snake climbs a wall, they use the small gaps between bricks to push away from.

If you ever catch a snake in the act, you’ll see this in practice. They’ll move about a foot up the wall, before crawling along the gap between the bricks, a foot or two to one side. They’ll then move up again, repeating the process. Even then, there’s a good chance that they’ll fall.

Trees are a different story for snakes. Rattlesnakes and other snakes can climb trees that are almost vertical. The difference is that the tree has bumps and lumps that are like the hand-holds we use when we climb. These give them small platforms to push upwards from so that they can climb.

Walls are entirely flat, so they can’t climb them in the same way. And rattlesnakes have thick bodies, which they can’t fit in the gap between bricks. They also lack the kind of suction-pads that other animals like geckos have. So, long story short, there’s no way they can climb up a sheer wall.

How Else Can They Get in a House?

Snakes can find their way into a house in a few ways. First, they could easily make their way up a tree adjacent to the property and drop down onto the roof from an overhanging branch. For a snake, even a rattlesnake, this is much easier than climbing a wall.

There’s also the chance that they got in through an open, ground floor window. Again, this is much easier for a snake to do. They could climb something adjacent to it, or if they’re long enough, hold their head high enough to get a purchase on the window ledge.

They could also have come in through the front door or back door if it was left open. They could then make their way anywhere they want in the house. And can snakes climb stairs? Yes, they can. Snakes can raise their heads off the ground to look around them. They can use this ability to climb the stairs step by step.

However, it’s important to note that the majority of snakes that are found in houses are non-venomous colubrids. Colubrids are the most common family of snakes and include corn snakes, racers, western and eastern hognoses, and many more species. These snakes were attracted to your home by the smell of prey, and pose no threat to you. They’re generally quiet neighbors too and can live in an attic or the walls for years without being noticed.

What to Do If There’s a Rattlesnake in Your House

If there’s a rattlesnake in your house, don’t approach it. They’re in an unfamiliar environment and will react defensively toward you. Rattlesnakes don’t like people at the best of times, and least of all when they feel like they’re cornered. Not only that, but you can’t safely catch the snake anyway, so there’s no need to approach it.

If the snake is in a particular room, close them in that room, and leave the house. Call a pest control expert straight away, somebody that can come and safely dispose of the snake. They’ll arrive as soon as they can. Expert pest control operatives use a stick to pick up the snake and trap it so that they don’t have to touch it. Even if you have one of these, leave the job to an expert.

If you’re ever bitten by a rattlesnake, you should seek medical assistance. Remain calm as panicking causes the venom to spread further, and can anger the snake if you’re still near it. Head somewhere safe and lie down to wait for the emergency services. Don’t use a tourniquet, and don’t try to ‘suck the venom’ out of the wound as both of these methods of treatment are ineffective.